Gregory Crewdson

Gregory Crewdson’s Photo Alchemy

Day to Day, January 16, 2006 · Gregory Crewdson doesn’t so much take pictures as make them. Some critics say the photographer and artist is reinventing the genre by using film techniques to stage pictures.

Crewdson’s carefully constructed tableaus generate more questions than answers:

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• A man sits in a garage, the door gaping open to a dark and rainy sky. A car is parked haphazardly in the rain, its headlights focused on the man. He is surrounded by lawn turf, rolls and mounds of it. Half-buried in the turf is a rake. His face is weary, a little sad, maybe even disconsolate.

For Audio – Images – Article:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5157819

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Cindy Sherman

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Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #58, 1980, Gelatin silver print 6 5/16 x 9 7/16″ (16 x 24 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Grace M. Mayer Fund

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Untitled Film Still #50. 1979. Gelatin silver print, 6 9/16 x 9 7/16″ (16.7 x 24 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel. © 2012 Cindy Sherman

In fall 1977, Sherman began making pictures that would eventually become her groundbreaking “Untitled Film Stills.” Over three years, the series (presented here in its entirety) grew to comprise a total of seventy black-and-white photographs. Taken as a whole, the “Untitled Film Stills”—resembling publicity pictures made on movie sets—read like an encyclopedic roster of stereotypical female roles inspired by 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, film noir, B movies, and European art-house films. But while the characters and scenarios may seem familiar, Sherman’s “Stills” are entirely fictitious; they represent clichés (career girl, bombshell, girl on the run, vamp, housewife, and so on) that are deeply embedded in the cultural imagination. While the pictures can be appreciated individually, much of their significance comes in the endless variation of identities from one photograph to the next. As a group they explore the complexity of representation in a world saturated with images, and refer to the cultural filter of images (moving and still) through which we see the world.

https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2012/cindysherman/gallery/2/mobile.php

Thomas Eakins (1844-1916)

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Thomas Eakins: A Motion Portrait
About Thomas Eakins
December 2, 2001

“I never knew of but one artist, and this is Tom Eakins, who could resist the temptation to see what they think ought to be rather than what is.” – Walt Whitman

When Thomas Eakins died in 1916, he left behind a body of work unprecedented in American art for its depth, strength, perception, character, and commitment to realism. Yet during his life, Eakins sold less than thirty paintings. Rejected by the public and the art establishment of his day, it was only after his death that a new generation of scholars and critics recognized Eakins as one of America’s greatest painters.

Born in 1844, Thomas Eakins lived most of his life in his home city of Philadelphia. After graduating high school he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He simultaneously took anatomy courses at Jefferson Medical College, in the hopes of creating more realistic pictures and gaining further insight into the human figure. In 1866 he left Philadelphia for Paris and later Spain, where he studied art and found the works of painters Diego Velásquez and Jusepe de Ribera. Along with Rembrant, these painters would be his greatest influences. A year later he returned to Philadelphia, never to go abroad again.

Throughout the 1870s Eakins painted the interior and exterior life of everyday America. He was concerned with the functioning of the physical world, as well as the inner lives of the people he painted. His paintings were both realistic and expressive. His attention to light, landscape, and the human form made Eakins stand far above his contemporaries. Among the most famous paintings of the time are his group portraits made at medical schools. Striking in their honesty and strict attention paid to the details of the human body, they shocked many in and out of the art world.

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In the 1880s, Eakins’ interest in realism brought him in contact with the photographer Edward Muybridge. The two collaborated on photographing the movement of animals and humans. Though few painters took it seriously, Eakins believed the new photographic technology was a tool to better represent the physical world. Throughout much of the 1880s, Eakins brought these interests to students at the Pennsylvania Academy, encouraging them to study anatomy and work from live nude models. In 1886 his insistence on the use of nude models saw a great deal of criticism. Frustrated with the criticism, he eventually resigned.

Though he continued to teach at a number of different colleges, it wasn’t until long after his death that Eakins’ innovations in art education were recognized and adopted throughout the country. By the 1890s he had moved from his earlier outdoor works like “Max Schmitt in a Single Scull,” (1871), a perfectly rendered quiet picture of a rower on the Schuylkill River, to portraiture. In the many portraits completed over the last thirty years of his life, Eakins retained his passionate adherence to realist representation. Unlike most other portrait painters of the time, Eakins had little concern for flattering his subjects , and instead demanded from himself the most precise objective images. The results were thorough and telling portraits that seemed to carry with them the souls of their subjects.

During the final years of his life, Eakins began to receive a bit of the recognition he deserved. On June 25, 1916 he died in the Philadelphia home in which he was born. Against social demands for propriety and respectability, Eakins refused to compromise and painted his subjects as they really were, and not as they wished to be seen. His paintings reflected the passing of time, the awareness of mortality, and the nobility of everyday life. His courageous persistence in advocating his personal vision changed the nature of art education and provided future generations with a deeper view of the time in which he lived.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/thomas-eakins-about-thomas-eakins/581/

Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904)

A series of photographs showing a horse galloping by Eadweard Muybridge (1830 - 1904)

Muybridge first photographed the human figure in motion on March 4th 1879. However, he did not focus on the human body until his contract at Pennsylvania University began in May 1884, resulting in two volumes of work dedicated to photographs of human subjects.

This extensive work depicted men, women and children variously running, jumping, falling and carrying out athletic or mundane activities. This section of Muybridge’s work reiterates the imperative Muybridge felt to explore time in modernity, as explored here through ‘Animals in Motion’. However, it also depicts, and perhaps helps consolidate a specifically American set of contemporary aspirations and ideals surrounding identity at Pennsylvania University.

As discussed in ‘Foreign Bodies’, the 19th Century in North America embodied strict racial hierarchies which helped unite the ‘civilized’ democratic world as a team, whilst validating the occupation of Native American Land. But this hierarchy was not only produced through the negative representation of non-western people. Racial ideals were configured for a new generation of western individuals too. And just as photography helped define non-western stereotypes it helped inscribe a new set of aspirations for westerners.

In his motion photography, Muybridge only used one non-white model – Ben Bailey – a mixed race male. Interestingly, Muybridge never used an anthropometric grid behind his subjects until he photographed Bailey, and never photographed the human figure without one afterwards (Brown, 2005 p637).

As Brown states, anthropometric grids were commonly used in 19th Century ethnographic photography to make objective studies of non-western bodies: highlighting physical differences which had grown to signify a lack of civilization to the western eye. Grids were particularly useful in this way as they gave photographic work the ‘aesthetic of science – dispassionate, orderly, coherent’ (Solnit, 2003, p195) which helped boost the truth-value of the photograph, and therefore helped inscribe racial stereotypes.

Gridded photographs of Ben Bailey helped situate him as ‘a racialised object’, reinforcing common negative stereotypes of the time surrounding primitivism and hyper-virility through his particularly muscular frame (Brown, p638). Conversely, Muybridge’s photographs of white males helped define a new positive set of ideals surrounding masculinity. These males were athletic, but not so overtly muscular, and represented a wider societal desire for young white males to achieve both intellectual and physical excellence; itself a subversion of stereotypes born from the previous generation of American intellectuals, who had suffered widely from neurasthenia.

Bailey thus provided a frighteningly exaggerated version of the physical ideal, whereas Muybridge’s white male subjects – mostly students and athletes from Pennsylvania University – represented a balanced version of this new aspiration for the next generation of American intellectual leaders. Pictures of men engaged in sporting events including fencing and boxing, as well as other physical activities such as hammering and lathing helped reinforce the dimensions of this new ideal masculinity – competitive, athletic and physically as well as intellectually able.

Just as ideals of maleness were embodied by Muybridge’s photography, so were images of femininity. These were more traditionally entrenched, but persuasive nonetheless. Women were pictured in graceful, domestic or maternal stances – and as is often the case in artistic representation, displayed for the viewer in representations far more sexualized than any pragmatic male nudity: often erring towards fantasy (Cresswell, 2006, p65)

Therefore white male athletic bodies and female sexualized domestic bodies represented racial stereotypes and social hierarchies just as clearly as images of Ben Bailey. Indeed, these were ideals consolidated by a final set of human bodies represented by Muybridge’s motion studies, those of disabled people – represented in a particularly scientistic and objective manner.

The plain contrast between medical abnormality and the physical ideal represented by this work clearly illustrates the 19th century trend of racial and bodily hierarchy Muybridge’s work functioned within. We might find this horrifying now, but we must not blame Muybridge for his sensibilities. A man of his time, Muybridge is an essential orator for the world he inhabited.

Select Bibliography

Brown, Elspeth H. ‘Racialising the Virile Body: Eadweard Muybridge’s Locomotion Studies 1883-1887. In Gender and History Vol 17 no 3 Nov 2005 pp627-656.

Cresswell ,Tim ‘Capturing mobility: mobility and meaning in the photography of Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey’ On the Move (New York Routledge 2006)

Foucault, Michel Society Must Be Defended (London, Penguin, 2003)

Hargreaves, Roger The Beautiful and the Damned: the Creation of Identity in Nineteenth Century Photography (Hampshire, Lund Humphries 2001)

Poole, Deborah Vision, Race and Modernity (New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1997)

Solnit, Rebecca Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge. (London: Bloomsbury, 2003)

http://www.eadweardmuybridge.co.uk

Lorna Simpson

The daughter of…, 2015
collage, and ink on paper 30 x 22 inches (76.2 x 55.9 cm) unframed 30.25 x 23.6 inches (76.8 x 59.4 cm) framed

The daughter of…, 2015 (detail)
collage, and ink on paper 30 x 22 inches (76.2 x 55.9 cm) unframed 30.25 x 23.6 inches (76.8 x 59.4 cm) framed

Artist Lorna Simpson Returns to Her Favorite Subject—Hair—With Exclusive New Works
Mackenzie Wagoner’s picture
MARCH 31, 2016 3:25 PM
by MACKENZIE WAGONER

In a video currently playing in the Art Institute of Chicago’s “Nothing Personal” exhibition, two women silently and simultaneously perform their morning rituals, their skin-care and makeup routines and hairstyles providing clues to their social roles, their place and time. The work is by New York–based artist Lorna Simpson, who has spent much of her nearly 40-year career exploring visual identity—namely the language of hair. Take, for example, Wigs, where a long blond tumble of curls hangs bodiless on a white backdrop, nearby a stretch of braid is neatly coiled just below a frothy cloud of disembodied afro; or Twenty Questions, which features four gelatin silver prints of an obsidian bob shining against equally dark skin and the collar of a soft white tank top—between each image, plaques propose interpretations, from “Is she as pretty as a picture” to “or sharp as a razor.”

From the sprays of updos in Stereo Styles to the chronologically organized ropes of braids in 1978–88, Simpson seems to suggest that if we wear our history, it’s on top of our heads. From birth, the texture and color of our hair alone speak volumes about centuries of heritage, while length and style become culturally coded symbols of sex, location, musical preferences, and professions. “Hair is a cipher of identity,” said Simpson over the phone recently, speaking about her fascination with the material. “I had questions about representation and what we learn about the subject.”

They are questions she leaves open-ended. Without a voice and often faceless, Simpson’s portraits instead confront us, the audience, with our own preconceived notions about race and gender as they’re tied to beauty, a theme that became more prominent in her later collage work, in which found photographs of anonymous African American women (and occasionally men) were stripped of their original coifs and surrounded, instead, by swirls of Simpson’s free-form ink paintings that she has likened to Rorschach tests. There, the forward-facing gazes seem to ask, “Who do you think I am?” and “Why?”


Ultra Violet 1, 2015
collage, and ink on paper 14.6 x 18.5 inches (37.1 x 47 cm) unframed 19.25 x 15.4 x 1.5 (48.9 x 39.7 x 4 cm) inches framed


Tulip, 2014
collage, and ink on paper 30 x 22 inches (76.2 x 55.9 cm) unframed 30.25 x 23.6 inches (76.8 x 59.4 cm) framed

Now, her subjects are more liberated than ever. Above, in a new exclusive series for Vogue.com, Simpson has lifted the faces of 12 women from “very mundane” ’60s and ’70s advertisements in Ebony magazine—the culture and politics monthly she grew up with that “informed my sense of thinking about being black in America”—and paired them with illustrations of geological and astrological forms from a 1931 textbook. Stripped of any fundamental context, the women provide no origin story and no identifying characteristics. The geometric shapes replacing their hair weren’t chosen for their resemblance to, say, Nefertiti’s crown or Erykah Badu’s emerald head wrap—references that may spring to mind as you look at them—but rather for the same reason you might cut, color, or change the texture of your hair: simply because, says Simpson, “I thought they were beautiful.”

https://www.vogue.com

http://www.lsimpsonstudio.com

Francesca Woodman (1958-1981)

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Francesca Woodman, Space2, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976
Gelatin silver print, 13.7 x 13.3 cm

At the age of thirteen Francesca Woodman took her first self-portrait. From then, up until her untimely death in 1981, aged just 22 she produced an extraordinary body of work (some 800 photographs) acclaimed for its singularity of style and range of innovative techniques. Woodman studied at Rhode Island School of Design, from 1975 – 1979, receiving a grant to spend a year in Rome to continue her studies. Whilst there she produced an extensive body of work and had her first solo exhibition at a bookshop and gallery specializing in Surrealism and Futurism.

Since 1986, her work has been exhibited widely and has been the subject of extensive critical study in the United States and Europe. Woodman is often situated alongside her contemporaries of the late 1970s such as Ana Mendieta and Hannah Wilke, yet her work also foreshadows artists such as Cindy Sherman, Sarah Lucas, Nan Goldin and Karen Finley in their subsequent dialogues with the self and reinterpretations of the female body.

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Born in 1958 in Denver, Colorado, Francesca Woodman lived and worked in New York and Italy until her death in 1981. Since 1986 her work has been exhibited widely. Significant solo presentations of Woodman’s work include Francesca Woodman at the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (2011-12), which subsequently toured to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2012); Francesca Woodman: Retrospective at the Sala Espacio AV, Murcia, touring to SMS Contemporanea, Siena (both 2009); Francesca Woodman: Photographs at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (2003) and Francesca Woodman at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, Paris (1998), which subsequently toured to Kunsthal, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (1998); Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal (1999); The Photographers’ Gallery, London (1999); Centro Cultural TeclaSala, L’Hospitalet, Barcelona (1999-2000); Carla Sozzani Gallery, Milan, (2001); The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2001) and PhotoEspana, Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Madrid (2002). Woodman’s work is represented in the collections of major museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Detroit Institute of Arts; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Tate/National Galleries of Scotland.

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http://www.victoria-miro.com